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The Volunteer Board Hat

By April 8, 2015August 17th, 2022No Comments

VolunteerBoardHat_horizFor the past two weeks, we have been looking at the three “hats” board members wear and the roles they play as they wear those hats. We began with the Participant board hat, last week we covered to Governance board hat and today we will focus on the Volunteer board hat. In case you missed the other two weeks, they can be found at and

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a volunteer is defined as, “a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service.” The key word in this definition is voluntarily. Looking further, the definition of voluntarily is to do willingly by choice because you want to do it. These definitions strike me as contrary to how executive directors view the volunteer board hat for board members.

When acting as a volunteer, board members use their interests, gifts and talents to accomplish organizational tasks. For this reason, it is unrealistic to expect every board member to lead one fundraising event or to assist in the food pantry with food distribution tasks. Instead, it is more realistic to ask board members what they enjoy doing, what their strengths are and where they would like to serve. Then, with this information, we can connect board members with various volunteer opportunities within the organization.

It is important to remember that the first priority of a board member is to govern the organization, volunteering is optional! The Governance Hat should always come first! It is also important to remember that just because someone is a wonderful volunteer does not mean that they will be an effective board member.

As potential board members are recruited, some questions to ask yourself and those involved in the recruiting/nominating process include:

  • Are you being really clear that volunteering is optional?
  • Are there protocols and policies in place for board members who volunteer?

Remember, if you need a volunteer, recruit a volunteer. If you need a board member, recruit a board member. There are many opportunities for volunteers, but just a few are needed to govern.

Does your board understand the hats board members wear? Contact us today for a customized training for all of your board members.

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